MAY 1 2024    
MO Magic: Explore the Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds for Any Budget
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MO Magic: Explore the Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds for Any Budget

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MO Magic: Explore the Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds for Any Budget

Some states are hidden gems. Missouri is a hidden goldmine. 

The Show-Me State is home to gigantic springs, crystal-clear rivers, and mighty mountains spread across an astoundingly beautiful landscape of vibrant greens and blues. 

Once you visit, you’ll fall in love. I’m here to help you get started planning your trip, so strap in and get ready to take a tour of some stellar Missouri campgrounds just waiting to be discovered. 

Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds

Missouri boasts hundreds of campgrounds and RV parks. 

So, where exactly should you go for a good time? Well, that depends largely on what you’re hoping to see, what your budget is, and which type of camping you prefer to do. 

There are campgrounds for everyone here, so it’s impossible to choose just one. Or even ten. 

I’ve narrowed it down to several of the best Missouri Ozarks campgrounds that run the gamut of amenities, attractions, and price ranges. However, the truth is that I could spend a lifetime exploring this region and still not be able to choose my favorite! 

1. Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds: Echo Bluff State Park Campground

The Timbuktu Campground at Echo Bluff State Park is ideal for those seeking scenic views and a wide range of outdoor activities without giving up access to modern amenities. 

Why Come Here?

Named for the gigantic dolomite cliff at its center, Echo Bluff State Park is a natural playground the whole family can explore. It sits alongside crystal-clear Sinking Creek, the second-largest tributary to nearby Current River. 

Echo Bluff is surrounded by deep wells and shallow gravel bars for any and all riverside fun. 

This makes Echo Bluff an excellent pass-through point for a floating trip, especially since it is surrounded by backcountry with several outfitting partners ready and willing to aid in logistics. 

The creek has many deep pockets perfect for casting a line. Fishing for smallmouth bass and goggle eye is popular here, as is simply wading, swimming, or sunbathing on the creek’s banks. 

There are over thirty miles of hiking and biking trails snaking their way through the park and connecting with nearby backcountry. The area hosts a number of interactive activities for kids and has an amazing playground with a splash pad. 

Echo Bluff is especially popular with history buffs because of its juicy past. The park started out back in 1929 as Camp Zoe, a youth camp focusing on traditional family values (what that means, I never could find out) and equestrian activities. 

When it eventually closed in 1986, private landowners bought it and used it for religious retreats.

Things began to get interesting in 2004, when some members of Grateful Dead tribute band The Schwag purchased it. It was home to hippies, parties, and the locally-famous “Schwagstock”— a jam-band music festival featuring a lot of fun times, if you ask anyone who attended. 

If you ask the federal government, they'd disagree. The land was seized due to drug trafficking in 2014 and was eventually sold to the state for a paltry $640,000. 

There are no traces of Schwagstock left in the pristine valley, but a pack of wild horses still roams the hills. It is likely the animals originated from domestic horses (perhaps a Camp Zoe oversight) and lucky people might catch a glimpse of them grazing.

Campground Conditions

Established just a few years ago in 2016, Echo Bluff is one of the newest parks in Missouri. As such, it features squeaky-clean accommodations and amenities most state parks don’t have. These include hot showers, Wi-Fi for play or remote work, and laundry services and dining opportunities available nearby at the park’s lodge.  

As per my usual luck, it was pouring down rain during my stay. This was both amazing, since it meant I had everything to myself, and a little scary, since I was completely alone in poor weather.

It didn’t turn out to be a big deal. Since I recently upgraded to the premium version of Camping.Tools, I just turned on the Broadcast feature and shared my location to friends. It was really nice to have that safety net there, and it’s definitely a feature I’ll be using in the future. 

It’s also super convenient that the feature comes with a timer that enables you to turn Broadcast off automatically after a specified period. I forgot I turned it on almost immediately, and it’s likely I would still be broadcasting had it not turned off on its own—and then, everyone would know I visited Burger King twice on the drive back. Not really something I want to broadcast. 

Another unexpected plus of Broadcast was that the map actually showed me a geologic feature I wasn’t aware of: Round Spring! I stopped at the spring on the drive home and it was incredible. 

To the left, my Broadcast map. To the right, my spontaneous trip to Round Spring, courtesy of the Camping.Tools Broadcast feature!

RV sites with electric, water, and sewer hookups are available. These are located in an open area that does tend to heat up during the summer months, so come prepared with canopies if you spend a lot of time aboard. 

The walk-in tent sites are shaded and absolutely pristine. Unlike many “walk-in” sites, you actually do have to walk in here. But it’s pleasant and not that far. There are even carts available to help take your gear from the parking area to the campsites!

Sites range from $13 to $37 per night, with walk-in tent access being the most economical and full-service electric with water and sewer being the priciest. I have to say, these sites are more than worth the price. With all the amenities, you’ll feel right at home—yet you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of acres of wilderness to explore. 

While you might be able to get a site upon arrival in the off-season, the park is very popular and the campground tends to fill up quickly. Make sure to reserve a site online or call the park ahead of time to ensure your spot is waiting. 

The bottom line? Echo Bluff State Park is a full-service campground with a luxurious feel. You’ll be surrounded by nature yet want for nothing here. 

Getting There

Coordinates: 37.313515, -91.411840

Echo Bluff State Park lies off MO-19 near Eminence, Missouri. From Eminence, head north on MO-19. It’s a straight shot 14 miles to the park entrance on your right. 

It’s easy to find Echo Bluff State Park and since the area is extremely developed, there are signs everywhere pointing you in the direction of the campground and various attractions. 

2. Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds: Big Spring Camp

Big Spring Campground is ideal for families who want to explore quintessential Ozarks scenery in a tranquil setting that offers several key creature comforts. 

Why Come Here?

Lying on the banks of the Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways system, Big Spring is famous far beyond southern Missouri. 

True to its name, it’s a top contender for the title of America’s largest spring. Two other springs are roughly the same size, but all three remain in the running since water levels vary by season and rainfall.

Pumping out about 286 million gallons of water daily, Big Spring is truly a sight to behold. Its deep blue color stands out as uniquely beautiful, contrasting sharply with the softer, lighter turquoise of the Current River it feeds. 

I was astounded by the minutia of Big Spring’s ecosystem. Algae and watercress abound here, snaking and weaving ribbons of bright green through the water. It’s the kind of thing you want to shout from the rooftops, to tell everyone about so they can enjoy the rare phenomenon. 

I didn’t shout (everyone there already knew, anyway) but I did get on Camping.Tools immediately to add a photo to my trip’s timeline. 


You just don’t see colors like this every day, so sharing it with the community was a must-do! Uploading on the app only takes a moment, and you’ll have those memories at your fingertips for a lifetime. 

Of course, Big Spring isn’t the only reason to come here. The campground is situated deep in the Ozark Mountains and there are numerous glens, hollows, springs, and waterfalls to explore. Immaculately maintained and absolutely beautiful hiking trails conveniently connect the campground to the nearby forest and spring. 

Campground Conditions

The campground is fully paved with back-in sites for RVs. Standard electric and non-electric sites are available and each site features a lantern hook, picnic table, fire pit, and grill. 

There is a dump station and potable water available at the entrance, as well as flush toilets and bathrooms with hot showers. Sites range from $20-$30 per night depending on what kind of site you want, and I’d say it’s a pretty good deal considering everything you get. 

Some sites are situated right along the river and some offer access points for wading, kayaking, and frolicking in the water. There is even a boat launch for water toys and a gravel bar for lounging, sunbathing, and fishing. 

Especially during summer, it’s wise to book in advance through Sites here are developed, beautiful, and highly coveted, so make sure you’ve got a place to land when you arrive.  

Don’t forget to check out the historic lodge and accompanying cabins here. They’re currently closed to entry while undergoing restoration by the Civilian Conservation Corp. This should have been completed in 2023, but we all know how that stuff tends to go. 

However, you can look from the outside and the project is coming along nicely. When I was there in April 2024, it looked like the CCC was almost finished!  

The bottom line? Big Spring Campground is a perfect representation of the Ozarks’ best at a price your family can afford. 

Getting There

GPS: 36.96361761447931, -90.98339450721737

It’s easy to access Big Spring Campground via the town of Van Buren, MO. You’ll head south on US-60 for nearly a mile and take a left onto MO-103, puttering along for a mile and taking a left on CR 60-102.

There’s a lot of signage on the way pointing you in the right direction, and you definitely won’t be able to miss the gigantic, stunning spring at the bottom of the valley. 

2. Best Missouri Ozarks Campgrounds: North Fork Recreation Area Campground

The North Fork Recreation Area Campground (known to locals as Hammond Camp) is perfect for those on a tighter budget seeking an easy access point to miles and miles of Missouri Ozarks magic. 

Why Come Here?

The North Fork Recreation Area lies along the banks of the North Fork River. It’s a gorgeous gateway to the Mark Twain National Forest, a natural playground encompassing over 1.5 million acres. This area is home to more attractions than you could possibly see in a lifetime—and some of the best are located near this small, unassuming campground. 

Nestled in an old-growth forest of towering sycamore peppered with poplar, pine, and oak, the greenery is second to none. You’ll be able to meander through these hills on the Blue Hole trail and Ridge Runner Trail, a 36-mile path that winds through the Mark Twain and circles Noblett Lake to the north. 

Many visit the campground for day use to swim, fish, or launch watercraft. Even more go to pay a quick visit to the picturesque Blue Hole, an affectionately-named spring that feeds the North Fork River with seven million gallons of crystal-clear water per day.

Blue Hole holds a special place in my heart because (if you’re brave) you can dive in and take a dip. Most MO springs are protected and swimming is not allowed, but Blue Hole seems to have escaped conservation attention. While this is objectively bad, it does make for a good time. 

Campground Conditions

North Fork Rec Area campground is more laid-back with less oversight and more opportunities for natural immersion.

The campground is a series of shaded loops with back-in access, many of which remain unoccupied even during the open season of April through November. 

Campsites are nonelectric and potable water is available only sporadically, but the campground is always surprisingly clean and sites offer a level of privacy and seclusion often unseen in developed campgrounds. 

Many sites have private river access points and one even sports a shortcut to Blue Hole. Each has a picnic table, lantern hook, fire ring, grill, and grassy areas for tents. There is trash service here and sites are just $10 per night. 

The bottom line? North Fork Rec Area Campground is surrounded by potential adventures on all sides and perfect for those who prefer simpler sites with more of a wild and free feel.

Getting There 

GPS: 36.75676521350521, -92.15378028489668

The campground is located conveniently right off a main (though rural) road, so RVs of any length will have no problem with access. 

From Dora, MO, you’ll head south on MO-181 for half a mile and turn left on CR CC. Drive for about four miles, and as soon as you pass the bridge over the North Fork River, you’ll see the campground turn-off on your righthand side.

Missouri Magic Awaits

Ready to explore the show-me state? I can’t blame you! Now that you know all about the best Missouri Ozarks campgrounds, it’s time to start planning your trip.

No matter where you go, a great time awaits you here. So, grab your app and hit the road for some wild adventure, exploration, and fun!

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